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A Day in the Life of a New Math Teacher Author(s): THOMAS HARMS Source: Math Horizons, Vol. 2, No.

3 (February 1995), p. 24 Published by: Mathematical Association of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25678006 . Accessed: 26/08/2013 08:55
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THOMAS HARMS

A New
What

Day Math

in

the

Life

of

Teacher
"When are we ever going to use this," to which I gleefully reply, "I use it every day!" In the last year, I have come to see to that my biggest responsibility is to be enthusiastic and mathematics in my energetic presentation. Unfortunately, many of the curricula I am required to work within have a in the deficiency "awe-inspiring mathematics" category. Itwas difficult enough to espouse the value of keeping even balance my checkbook," give them the number of the local bank and then ask innocently if they had something about math that theywould like to talk about. If someone complains abut the

classes would you be most interested in teaching?" asked my department chair during my interview for a teaching position. "Well" I replied without hesitation, "Calculus and Trigonometry would be the ideal, though I would welcome to teach classes." any opportunity I teach Consumer Math, Algebra I to students who have either failed itonce before or who had a lot of trouble in and Applied Math, an Pre-Algebra, experimental course designed to cover the material from Algebra I over two years with a vocational emphasis. While the job has confronted me with many challenges, most of which
are classroom management and disci

uselessness of math, take them to the local art museum and ask them to
comment on the usefulness of the near

mathematics
science,

est painting.
repeat

If a physicist tells you that is just the language of


his or her claim, casu

pline problems, my greatest challenge as a mathematician inside the class room is the same challenge we all face as mathematicians outside the class
room: how to communicate mathemat

performing in front of twenty people who would rather be somewhere else, as I do every day, simply let them know that somebody out there loves math, and do the bestyou can to tell and show them why. We are in an exciting field which allows us to go in almost any direction

ally omitting the word "just" and leave itat that. (Never argue the point with a be wasting your physicist?you'll if And breath). you ever find yourself

ics, both
components,

its aesthetic
to an

and utilitarian
audience that

Algebra would be useful, but theworld isn't perfect, so he advises us to drink a beer and forget about it.The scientist has sometimes been guilty of charac terizing the most important part of as its role of the "Lan mathematics
guage of science." And, of course,

doesn't speak the language. are We as students of mathematics The abused. always being general pub lic often shares the sentiments of the beer commercial I saw recently, where a man tells us that in a perfect world,

Illustrationby Loel Barr an up-to-date-checkbook when I am

we choose. Some choose to remain in the academic world, others take their and put it to use in the mathematics "outside" world. The specific list is vir tually endless, as it should be for the only field which can boast both incred

students often utter the sacred phrase,

my

THOMAS HARMS, a recent Boston Univer sity graduate, teaches high school math in
Crossett, America Arkansas through the Teach for program.

doing math, don't you?" "I'm glad you understand that," I said with a smile. As mathematicians, we all share the same responsibility to our discipline. If
someone says to you, "Math?I can't

satisfied to know my balance within $100, never mind being excited about the basic arithmetic skills required to balance it. Nonetheless, I tried to communicate my feelings about math as often as possible, and I knew Iwas on to something one day when a student said, "Mr. Harms, you really get off on

ible beauty and unimaginable beauty. I chose teaching. My best teachers have been and continue to be the ones who are excited about what they do and about how it relates to who they
are. In that sense, no matter which

path you choose, you have the oppor tunity and responsibility to be a math

teacher every day of your life. Seize your opportunity and fulfill your re sponsibility regardless of where you go and what you do when you leave col lege. The gains will be both yours and those whose lives you touch.

24

MathHorizons 1995 February

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